Hodgson wary of playing Zaha following arduous African round-trip

Wilfried Zaha could miss Crystal Palace’s clash with Huddersfield after a gruelling and ultimately pointless stint on international duty.

Zaha made a 6,400-mile round trip to the Ivory Coast ahead of their African Cup of Nations match against Rwanda despite carrying a hamstring injury which ultimately ruled him out.

The winger arrived back at Palace on Tuesday and has since been receiving treatment.

Manager Roy Hodgson, whose side are still not clear of the threat of relegation as they sit five points off the bottom three, said: “With these strains, it is important to take care, especially hamstrings.

“I understand the Ivory Coast feel they need to check the veracity of the situation, so I was always aware he would have to go over there but I was disappointed he wasn’t able to come back a bit earlier for treatment here.

“You have to be so careful with hamstring injuries. It’s so difficult to know whether someone is 100 per cent fit. So I think everyone understands the caution we wanted to show going into this important stage of the season.

“We are grateful to Aidy Boothroyd and the England Under-21s for not pushing Aaron Wan-Bissaka to play and giving him the chance to recover.

“I can only hope Wilf, being as resilient as he is, can deal with the fact he’s had to have a journey back and forward to the Ivory Coast.

“Hopefully, the couple of days he has had back with us should stand him in good stead for Saturday.”

Full-back Wan-Bissaka is expected to shake off his hamstring problem in time.

A win for Palace could relegate Huddersfield and would also significantly ease their own fears of the drop as they would move to 36 points, eight clear of third-bottom Cardiff who travel to Chelsea on Sunday.

But Hodgson added: “I would want more than three points from our remaining eight matches. That would not satisfy me.

“I still think people, if they are really making certain that relegation is not a huge spectre, should be targeting 40 points.

“With our next win, whenever it comes, we will be a bit closer to that.”

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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